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Articles on Teaching ESL, EFL, and TEFL!





Teaching Effective Communication Through Graded Reading Materials

by Yoda Schmidt



I have worked hard to make creative lessons for my students, but I haven't always met with success. Even when a lesson was fun and well done in class, it often fails to produce any lasting results. I sometimes ask students to recall what we learned the previous class and am met with blank stares. That's always a disappointment.

The activity described in this article is not like that at all. It produces results. I swear by it. It is the single most effective activity in my bag o' tricks. And the best thing about it is that it has a duo purpose: it helps students learn the language that is set before them and, more importantly, it teaches them to be effective communicators.



Two Articles Downloads

The complete library of articles available for download is here: Below are some samples articles that can be found in the library.

(a) Two Law Cases

(b) Two Survival Situations: Bears and Shipwrecks

(c) Two Endangered Animals: Turtle and Tiger

(d) Franken Monkeys,Franken Fish and Franken Food  


Care to make a comment or share an idea on this article and the two articles teaching method?

So what is this activity? It's simple. I break the students up into groups of four. I hand out graded articles, which I have written myself (and made available here by Chris). I give the students 10 or 15 minutes to read the articles and remember the contents (they are not required to memorize the contents word for word).

Usually, two students get article A and two students get article B. After they have been given time to read the articles, I take the articles away. The two students who have article A work together to explain what they read in detail. And the two students who read article B do likewise. I generally don't let them take notes because notes are a way to shortcut the process of becoming effective communicators.

After the explanations are finished, I move all of the students who read article B one group clockwise. And then in the new groups, the As give the new Bs a test and the new Bs give the As a test. The test is a simple comprehension test. Note: If you use the articles that you can download above, you should fold them in half before you give them out. The students should only be able to read their own article.

The first time they try this activity. They enjoy it, but they invariably score about 4 out of 20 questions. And the reason is that they communicate passively. The pair that describes the article gives a simple retelling and the pair that is listening just listens passively without asking questions.

This initial failure is instructive to them because it shows how ineffective their communication is. It tells them that they have to be more aggressive in communicating. They have to confirm that the message was delivered or that they received the message clearly. This is where classroom English comes in and this is where we, the teachers, can walk around the room and give our input and corrections.

Though students do poorly at first, the activity is so motivating that, generally, they will ask to do it again in the next class. And they will do better. Usually, they can get as much as 15 out of 20. They enjoy seeing the improvement and they seem to just spontaneously become more active in their communication. On the second go around, you will find that they start using these strategies:

(1) They begin informing their partner pairs when they don't understand something.

(2) They begin defining words for each other.

(3) They begin asking for and giving spellings.

(4) They beginning spelling out numbers: 10,000 equals one zero zero zero zero.

(5) They begin confirming that what they understood was correct. (listener)

(6) They begin confirming that what they said was understood. (speaker)

(7) The pair that is explaining the article begins summarizing what they think are the key points for the pair that is listening. (They will for example tell the pair that is listening that they should remember this number or that fact).

As part of process 5 and 6, I have seen some students who were listening actually retell the article to the students who initially read the article! And I have seen some students who read the article quiz the students who were listening to the explanation of the article; that is, they give a practice quiz before I give them my quiz. They begin anticipating what are the important details.

The next class, I review by asking the students to recount the articles from the previous class. They can usually do this quite well, which says something about the effectiveness.

When making these articles I try to follow a few basic principles. The articles are graded; they are stripped of most of the difficult idioms and lengthy sentences are broken down into smaller sentences. Target vocabulary and expressions are seeded into both articles so that they end up reading the expressions and saying the expressions, followed by hearing the expressions immediately afterwards.

The results from this kind of activity are amazing because of how fast their communication skills improve. And they are equally amazing because of how effective they are for getting students to remember expressions and content. In the next class, when I review, the students are able to recall very accurately what was in the articles. They remember most of the phrases and expressions and practically all of the key details.


 The complete library of Two Article Teaching Resources is available here!